Vermaculture

IMG_0663Though the San Francisco summer fog has slowed down plant production at Amyitis, we not letting it slow us down!  It is true; we’ve noticed a marked stunt in growth and production across the board since the 2nd week in July.  The fog brings 50* temperatures with it each day when it arrives at around 4:30pm.  Like an old friend who’s overstayed his welcome, I was happy with the fog at first but then things turned sour.  What once provided cool relief from the intense heat of a California summer has become a nearly icy relationship.  Generally speaking, if the fog decides to burn off at all, most days it won’t do that until at least 10:30am.  That leaves very little time for our plants to take full advantage of the sun’s offerings.  Even though we are relatively shielded here in the Mission, this July the fog has been pervasive.  We’ve taken advantage of the time off from harvesting and weeding to get to some projects.  

IMG_0664At Amyitis’ central location we’ve lacked the time and resources to deal with our compost situation appropriately.  Until now we’ve had an open-air compost pile.  Frankly, it is a heap.  And while some of our organic waste IS composting, most of it is not.  After some thought around the matter and a little research, Eben and I decided that Vermaculture (composting with live worms) was what we really wanted to do.  Vermaculture, or worm composting, is a fast, clean, efficient and relatively orderless way to produce compost from food and yard scraps.  The worms can consume about half of their body weight per day.  What they leave behind is called “worm castings” and is literally some of the best fertilizer money can buy.  Click on the link above to learn a but more about how to do it at home.  

My good friend Matt Wickland came to lend us a hand in building the beds.  While there are many designs for worm bins, we took what we knew about worm behavior and took a stab at our own design.  We built two bins 12″ deep by about 2.5′ square that are made to rest on top of one another.  As the worms eat the vegetable matter, one can rotate the bins to keep the worms eating and take full advantage of their castings at the same time.  For so many reasons, vermaculture composting seems like the perfect compost system for the urban garden.  We’re hoping that our experiment will prove us right.  IMG_0661I guess that I kind of goofed.  Sometime last month I realized that our lettuce crop (which had been providing for us nicely since early April) was quite literally at the bitter end.  We plant the seeds very close together and cut them often.  This gives us a baby variety of many types of lettuce.  Since the plant is never allowed to fully mature it continues to sprout, giving us ample harvests.  Our lettuce had been going strong for a while.  In a panic a few weeks ago, I planted more lettuce in spaces I had availablele; they didn’t germinate properly.  It wasn’t until my third attempt at seeding new lettuce that the seedlings finally took.  We finally pulled up the remaining lettuce beds that had sustained us for so long and started anew.  In order to really have  super-productive gardens, it appears as though managing planting schedules is more important than I had ever realized.  I waited too long relying too heavily on a single planting.  As hard as it is to turn over a bed that is still productive, sometimes you have to in order to keep things healthy. Lesson learned.  More lettuce in late August.  

happy gardening, 

 

David

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